Dazed and confused: the characteristics and behavior of title confused readers

One of the most often discussed issues in the methodology of print audience research is that of title confusion. The potential threat of title confusion has continued to concern both research producers and research users because the results of print research are often used in a marketplace where potentially confused titles are often direct competitors. Many times these direct competitors feel that they are in worse than a zero-sum competition. Confused readers actually have the potential for producing a “double negative impact� since these readers act to decrease the audience of one publication and increase, by the same amount, the audience of a competitor. It is interesting to note that in Michael Brown’s landmark work Effective Print Media Measurement, [Brown, 1999] which summarizes much of the relevant wisdom to emerge from the first nine Worldwide Readership Research Symposia, the term “title confusion� requires three lines in the index for page references while terms like “response rate� and “source of copy� only require two. Much of our inspiration for the present study has roots in Don McGlathery’s 1993 paper “Does Title Confusion Affect Magazine Audience Levels?� [McGlathery, 1993] Specifically we wanted to create a large scale empirical data set that would allow us to examine many of Don’s hypotheses and conjectures.

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